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GP Week : Issue 149
Mercedes’ innovative ‘double DRS’ rear wing system survived its sternest challenge yet in Shanghai last Thursday when it underwent the full scrutiny of FIA race stewards following a formal protest by the Lotus F1 team, only to be once again passed legal. The approval from the stewards was the third such approval from the governing body, after it was already passed by scrutineers at the Australian and Malaysian GPs last month. The Mercedes double DRS system involves a complicated array of piping that connects the rear wing of the W03 to its front wing. When the DRS is activated during practice, qualifying or the race, the rear wing movement uncovers a hole in each of the rear wing endplates, allowing air to flow from the high-pressure zone on the upper surface of the main rear wing element to the low-pressure zone on the lower surface of the main front wing elements. In similar style to the F-duct that was pioneered by McLaren in 2010 on the rear wing, this airflow then stalls the front wing elements, reducing its drag and further increasing top speed. The system has the secondary effect of reducing front downforce, thereby making the overall balance of the car more neutral, counteracting the lost downforce at the rear. At Thursday's hastily-arranged hearing, Lotus argued that Mercedes' system should be declared illegal because it depends on driver movement for activation, i.e . the pressing of the DRS button on the steering wheel. However, having examined detailed drawings of the system in private, the stewards were satisfied that it was entirely passive and adhered to the primary purpose of the DRS to improve overtaking. “Having examined the evidence presented, the Stewards decide unanimously that the Protest is dismissed,” read the stewards' decision. “There are many different parts of bodywork fitted to cars from a variety of teams, which have been designed specifically to take advantage of the change in airflow caused by the activation of the DRS. The modifications on Cars 7 and 8 are examples of the above. “The design is entirely passive and has no moving parts whatsoever. “The sole purpose of the "DRS" as stated in Article 3.18.3, is to improve overtaking. The Mercedes design is completely consistent with this objective.” The stewards also pointed to approval from the FIA of Mercedes' double DRS earlier in the year as another reason to throw out the protest. “Further, and distinct from the grounds above, the protest is dismissed on the grounds that the FIA confirmed the assertion of the Mercedes team that it had ... sought clarification from the FIA Formula One Technical Department concerning this matter and the FIA confirmed that the Mercedes design had been deemed permissible.” Lotus later confirmed it would not appeal the stewards’ decision, amid rumours that the Enstone- based team is developing its own extra-powerful double DRS design. With the concept effectively rubberstamped as legal by the stewards, other teams are now free to design their own versions of the technology, potentially making use of it to come up with even more powerful solutions than the one Mercedes has pioneered. Mercedes’ front row lockout at the Chinese Grand Prix at the weekend is only likely to spur rival teams on further, with a big advantage on straightline speed to be gained, especially during qualifying. LOTUS’ PROTEST OF MERCEDES ‘DOUBLE DRS’ FAILS Rumours say Lotus designing super-power double DRS BRIEFLY » While the safety of the citizens of Bahrain is the priority next weekend, the F1 press corps was unimpressed to be left out of the list of those people whose safety was assured by the FIA at the Bahrain Grand Prix. A number of news organisations – including France’s RTL, Japan’s Fuji TV, and Sky Germany – have elected to cover the race from their home bases, having been told that the situation was too unpredictable for them to be able to insure their correspondents. GP WEEK asked the FIA what provisions were being put in place to protect the media, who are traditionally ferried between Manama and the circuit in minibuses emblazoned with the words ‘F1 media’. Despite being given two days in which to respond to questions about any safeguards for the attendant journalists and broadcasters, the FIA chose not to comment, waiting 48 hours before referring us to the Bahrain International Circuit. » One of the unconfirmed rumours doing the rounds of the Shanghai paddock was that Martin Whitaker – boss of the Bahrain International Circuit from its inception to 2010 – will be moving to Austin where he is expected to take on a similar role at the Circuit of the Americas. Most recently, Whitaker spent 18 months as Chief Executive Officer of Australia’s V8 Supercars race series, but was then moved sideways following the arrival of ‘investment’ owners. Whitaker has been involved in motorsport since the 1980s, and in that time has worked for Britain’s Royal Automobile Club Motor Sports Association, FISA, McLaren, and the FIA, among others James Allison Lotus F1 Technical Director and Alan Permane Lotus F1 Race Engineer inspecting the Mercedes AMG 6 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> NEWS